Today I am sharing with you something very personal. The purpose of this post is for me to be just as transparent as I expect my clients to be with me. My clients are not strangers. They are real people with real feelings and real hearts; and my job is to capture all of those emotions. So, I figured it's time for my clients to get to know something about me.
It was our last semester of the Physical Therapist Assistant program when I started to experience burning, cramping, aching abdominal pain. My primary care physician diagnosed me with an "ulcer" due to my symptoms and started me on Prilosec (an acid reducer medication). They say ulcers are caused from stress and caffeine overload, which was totally my case with finishing an intense program. So, that's what I thought it was and believed I would be cured.
Not the case.
Tom and I got married August of 2016. When we returned from our honeymoon, we put our vows to test with two ER visits before December. Tom got the flu in November and was violently ill with vomiting and dehydration. Not too long after that, it was my turn to have "the ER experience". I specifically remember the day. It was a Saturday because I was supposed to work; I woke up at 2am with severe stomach cramping- sharp, stabbing pain with burning and aching symptoms. I was in fetal position on the bathroom floor screaming. No matter what I tried, the pain would not go away. I knew if we went to the ER, they would at least give me pain meds, so that was our plan. What I did not know was that I would be discharged without any scans and a diagnosis of "ulcers". Only funny part about this experience was when the Morphine and Ativan hit me. Tom had to help me sit up in bed because I was so knocked out. You could say it helped my pain a tad.
From then on I continued to experience the same symptoms pretty much EVERY DAY. I visited a new primary care physician in Springfield MULTIPLE times with new medications and no relief. They finally ordered an abdominal x-ray. It was negative. Then they ordered at CT scan. It was negative. I was then referred to a GI specialist. He performed an upper GI scope (EGD) on me and it was negative. Sooooo he gave me new medication, which I'm not taking because IT WAS $400!!
In the mean time, I'm missing so much work. Calling in and leaving early because I couldn't even stand up. Also not very fun when your boss tells you you're out of days to miss.
I then turned my world upside down. A co-worker recommended me to try a Paleo diet. She was listening to For The Love with Jen Hatmaker podcast when Danielle Walker with Against All Grain was featured. Danielle was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis when she was 22 years old and experienced most of my symptoms, but worse. Basically her body was rejecting all sorts of nutrition and causing her to lose weight and her hair. I connected with her story because I am now 22 years old and recently married, as she was. I ordered her cookbooks and dived right into this new lifestyle.
Paleo is a diet that does not include dairy, wheat, grains, or gluten. So what the heck do you eat you might ask? Air and water. LOL NO JUST KIDDING!
What I love about the Against All Grain cookbooks are how easy it is. Danielle tells you exactly where she orders her foods from and how to substitute the right ingredients. I'd say I did true Paleo for 2/3 months, with occasional "bad" ingredients to test my body. Let me tell you, it was hard. But I couldn't have done it without Tom. Seriously. There would be nights when I didn't feel like cooking and making real food due to fatigue or depression. Then I'd hear pots and pans start clinking in the kitchen with my sweet husband serving me chicken and vegetables.
Before this journey began, when I thought of depression, I always thought it was fake. But I'm here to tell you depression is a real thing. I NEVER thought the words "I'm depressed" would come out of Hannah Shoaff's lips. But they did. A lot. I was depressed from going through pain for a year and a half. I was depressed for having to literally cook in order to eat. Couldn't just eat a frozen pizza to say I made dinner. I was depressed for losing faith in the medical system.
But by the grace of sweet Jesus, and only His grace, am I now able to say that I no longer have daily pain or daily black holes of depression. I want to share today the things that kept me going.
2- My sweet husband Tom Shoaff.
3- This always faithful puppy, Obi.
4- Good, true friends who supported my diet, feelings and needs.
5. The great outdoors.
6. Staying active. Yoga. Biking. Walking.
8. My mother and mother-in-law for making me special Paleo meals on holidays. (yeah did I mention I went through this at Thanksgiving and Christmas- freaking hard).
To answer your question, no I am not Paleo still. But I kept the habits I learned. I do not eat gluten or wheat for the most part. Every now and then I cheat. I'm a sweets girl, so it's still hard. I choose Almond milk anytime I can. I incorporate grains and rice into my meals and have felt pretty good so far. Not only did this diet affect me, it affected Tom as well. He'll say he feels better when he doesn't eat gluten or wheat. I can't tell you the last time we had a loaf of bread in this house.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my journey. Like I said, this is for my clients and followers to get to know Hannah Shoaff just a tad better. And to help anyone out there experiencing these symptoms know they're not alone. After all the doctor visits and testing, we still don't know what caused my pain in the first place. For me, it's a day-to-day effort to watch what I'm putting in my body, trying my best to keep a stress-free life, and staying in constant prayer for my health.